Newsmaker: ‘We have still not liberated our minds’

2012-01-21 16:25

Thami ka Plaatjie, who was this week appointed to the position of deputy chairperson of the SABC board, says it all came as a shock.

The Presidency announced this week that Ka Plaatjie (44) had been appointed as a non-executive member on the board of the SABC and also as deputy chairperson.

Ka Plaatjie replaces Peter Harris, who resigned as a board member last year. Lulama Mokhobo was appointed SABC chief executive.

The SOS Coalition, which represents a number of trade unions including TV production sector organisations and NGOs, welcomed Ka Plaatjie’s appointment and expressed confidence in his abilities.

Ka Plaatjie, once an outspoken Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) firebrand, says he doesn’t believe his appointment has anything to do with his joining the ANC last year.

In a widely publicised, eyebrow-raising move in May last year, Plaatjie joined the ANC, a party he often criticised fiercely during his days as a senior PAC leader.

Ka Plaatjie joined the ANC after resigning from the Pan Africanist Movement, a party he founded in 2009 after leaving the PAC.

“There are many people who have been in the ANC much longer than me. If it was about rewarding party members then I don’t think I would have been appointed,” he says.

“So I don’t think this has got anything to do with my membership. I can produce my ANC membership card, but then what? It won’t do the job. When it comes to serious issues and getting the job done, I have to be competent,” says Ka Plaatjie.

“I was frank in my interview. I mentioned that I’m not a broadcaster and I’m not a technician. I’m a researcher and an educationist.

“I believe that my background in education and research stood me in good stead,” says Ka Plaatjie.

He was informed of his nomination last year and in November, appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications.
“It was a gruelling interview,” he says.

We meet at his Vanderbijl-park house, from where he runs the Pan African Foundation. He’s a man on a mission to fulfil his passion for research which he hopes will in turn help to rewrite the country’s history.

His home is testimony to his first loves: research and history. Shelves are packed with history and politics books, while elsewhere boxes are piled high with research papers.

In another room, a team of young people are hard at work at a computer finalising work on the research paper they are compiling on the ANC’s 100 year history in the Free State.

“I realised there was a need for we Africans to tell our own story,” Ka Plaatjie says, explaining his decision to establish the foundation.

“We rely on white people to produce knowledge for us! We rely on white people to think for us! Why are we an audience in our own story?

“We are willing to play second fiddle. We still have not liberated our minds. We need to cleanse ourselves of this intellectual inferiority complex,” says Ka Plaatjie.

He is a busy man.

He hopes to publish In A Class of His Own later this year.

It is the biography of Robert Sobukwe which he has been researching and writing for the past few years.

Although he admires Sobukwe, it is strange that their political paths are in stark contrast.

Sobukwe broke away from the ANC to form the PAC in 1959, while Plaatjie went from the PAC to the ANC.

But he feels the country’s political landscape can benefit from the merger of these organisations.

“There is no better time for this,” he says. “And it doesn’t only apply to the PAC, but Azapo and others.

“They all have a good vision but I’m not sure they have the capacity to carry ít out.

“The ANC is a broad church, it accommodates everybody. There are communists and everybody is given space.

“There’s room for everyone to exist.”

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